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Boys today

By Kerri Kreh Reda, M.P.H.

It’s tough being a boy today. In past generations, male roles were clearly defined as warrior, soldier, or perhaps as sole provider for the family. As women have joined both the military and the workforce, boys’ roles and their purpose in society have become less clear. We have done a good job expanding society’s definition of femininity, but a poor job expanding our definition of masculinity. For example, men have learned to accept women in the workforce and to take pride in their wives’ and daughters’ full-time careers, but are women equally proud of their husbands and sons who are full-time, stay at home dads? Are men readily accepted as caregivers?

Another thing making it difficult being a boy is being taught to separate from one’s emotions at a very young age. By 8 years of age, many boys have learned not to cry, and that anger is the only acceptable emotion to express. Is it any wonder that our boys and young men are struggling? Boys and men account for the majority of suicides, fatal overdoses, gang involvement, and mass shooters. Additionally, boys are not doing as well as girls in elementary school through college, even in math and science where they previously excelled.

Clearly, we could be doing a better job to raise healthy boys. It is time we expand our definition of masculinity. Boys should be taught that expressing emotions does not mean that they are weak. They need to use coping skills other than violence and harmful substances, and to embrace roles other than economic provider. We need to provide good leadership and role models for boys who encourage connection and sensitivity, as well as confidence and strength. If society does not provide purpose and leadership opportunities for boys, they will look for it on the Internet, in social media, and by playing video games.

Here are some things adults can do to help boys grow into healthy young men:

  • Show affection towards boys on a regular basis.
  • Have family meals.
  • Point out stereotypes in media and comment on good role models.
  • Highlight alternatives to traditional male roles and show boys there are different ways they can follow their talents and still be valued.
  • Allow boys to express a full range of emotions and let it be okay for them to cry.
  • Encourage boys to be assertive but not aggressive.

For more information on raising boys:


“Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men” by Leonard Sax

“The Boy Crisis: Why Our Boys are Struggling and What We Can Do about It” by Warren Farrell, PhD and John Gray, PhD

Watch: “The Mask You Live In” (You Tube)

Kerri Kreh Reda, M.P.H., is a Human Development Specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program. She can be reached at 631-727-7850 ext. 330 or at

Why Preschoolers Worry and What You Can Do About It

By Nancy Olsen-Harbich, MA

Adults tend to think of early childhood as a worry-free zone, but the growing knowledge, awareness, and experiences of preschoolers can sometimes provide fuel for anxiety. Add to that their budding capacity to imagine both pleasant and very unpleasant things, and the result can be worrisome comments such as:

“I’m not sleeping in my room. There’s a ghost in there.”

”Are you sure you won’t forget me at nursery school?”

“I’ll never be good at art. I just can’t do it.”

Anxiety Sponges

At times, preschoolers can feel overwhelmed by worry. This is especially true of children who are sensitive by nature or who are experiencing increased stresses in family or school situations. Children are like sponges for anxiety. If it is around them, they will soak it up and release it when “squeezed.”

Look at your own stress level and how that may be affecting your child. Perhaps your child overheard you worrying about money or work problems, or sees you constantly rushing around. Are you a perfectionist and hard on yourself (or others) when anything is not done just right?

What else is your child experiencing? Is there a new baby or new school? Anticipating and adjusting to new experiences, even happy ones, can be challenging.

What is your child seeing, hearing, and reading? Warnings on the news about terrorists or tornadoes, a movie with ghosts, or even a fascinating picture book about spiders can set a preschooler’s active imagination spinning.

What You Can Do

  • Talk things out. Be respectful that your children’s fears/worries are very real to them, even if they seem silly or far-fetched to you. Steer the conversation carefully, resisting the urge to just say “Oh please, you’re FINE!” Being dismissive of feelings only compounds a child’s belief that no one understands. Acknowledge that we all worry or are afraid about some things.
  • Provide reassurance that you are there to comfort and help your child, and that you will never forget to pick up your child at school.
  • Offer facts to counteract active imaginations.
  • Provide practical help. Positive experiences help confident feelings grow. If your child has anxiety about art projects, let him practice using art materials at home so that he will feel more capable being creative in school.
  • Increase physical affection. Cuddle more and read together.
  • Try to turn down the stress level of family life by relying on secure routines and slowing down the pace at home.
  • If your child still seems very anxious, particularly if the anxiety lasts longer than one month, check with your pediatrician to make sure something more serious is not going on.

Nancy Olsen-Harbich is Program Director and a Human Development Specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program. She can be reached at 631-727-7850 ext. 332 or at

Grandparent’s Picnic

Healthy snacks for kids

By Rachel MacKinnon

Snack time is an opportunity to increase your child’s nutrition. It can be tricky when deciding what to feed your child, and if you have a picky eater, it’s even more challenging. Children will eat snacks that look colorful and fun. For example, by cutting food into different shapes, foods look new. Kids find it exciting to eat a dinosaur-shaped watermelon slice or a heart-shaped peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Having your children assist in the creation of the snack will also encourage them to eat it. Kids are proud of things they do, so include them in the baking and cooking process. They will be more likely to try what they make. Here are a few nutritious snack ideas you can make with your child:

Ants on a log


  • Celery sticks
  • Peanut butter
  • Raisins


Step 1: Wash and cut up celery    stalks.

Step 2: Spread peanut butter along the center.

Step 3: Scatter raisins on the peanut butter, making it look like there are ants on a log.

Frozen Yogurt Treats


  • Plain yogurt
  • Choice of frozen or fresh fruit
  • Optional: vanilla extract flavor, honey and granola

Step 1: In muffin cups, scoop 1/4 cup of yogurt and stir in optional flavoring.

Step 2: Top yogurt with choice of fruit.

Step 3: Freeze treats and serve.


Mini Pizzas


  • English muffin (whole grain)
  • Tomato sauce
  • Mozzarella cheese
  • Choice of veggies

Step 1: Preheat oven to 375°F.

Step 2: Slice English muffins into halves.

Step 3: Spoon on tomato sauce.

Step 4: Sprinkle on mozzarella cheese and choice of veggies.

Step 5: Cook for 10 minutes or until cheese has melted.



Rachel MacKinnon is a Dietetic Intern with C.W. Post LIU with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program

Choosing Meals for Picky Eaters

By Dinah Castro

Many parents of young children find themselves battling, begging and even bribing their children to eat a variety of healthy foods. Children can become picky eaters when they reach a stage in their development at which they want to assert independence. This is the time to encourage your child to make their own decisions, but make sure you are offering them healthy choices — for example, let them choose between broccoli and a crisp green salad. Either choice your child makes is a good one. You may also find it helps to offer small portions and allow them to ask for more once they’ve finished. Or better yet serve your meals “family style” and allow your child to pick from a variety of dishes. Use the “one tablespoon of food per each year of age” rule to gauge if your child has eaten enough.

To avoid battles, don’t force children to clean their plates. Threats and punishments only reinforce the power struggle. Do try to introduce new foods in a neutral manner. Talk about the color, shape and texture, but don’t tell them a new food tastes good. Allow your child to explore. Don’t get upset if your child is “messing around” with their food. It is actually part of his natural development to touch, smell, even put the food in his mouth and take it back out.  Use these awkward moments to teach your child how to properly use their napkin. Present the same food prepared in different ways. A child who refuses steamed carrots may dive into a plate of raw carrot sticks served with a light dip.

Research shows that it can take more than 10 exposures to a new food before a child accepts it. Be patient. Some children need time to outgrow pickiness.

Many parents sneak vegetables and fruit into meals to satisfy their own need to know their picky eater receives adequate nutrition. But this practice fails to teach children how to make healthy food choices. If you are concerned speak to your pediatrician and provide a multivitamin that ensures they get their recommended daily requirements.

Healthy Eating

To help your child develop healthy, lifetime eating patterns, try this:

  1. Start small. Allow your child to take a small portion of the new food along with familiar foods that he enjoys.
  2. Make it fun. Try serving veggies with a favorite dip. Cut solid textured foods into fun shapes with cookie cutters. Snack time, when kids are usually hungry and don’t have the mealtime pressure to eat, is a good opportunity to introduce new foods.
  3. Involve your child. Start at the grocery store by letting her select a new food for the whole family to try. Back home let your child help in the food’s preparation. Kids are more likely to eat what they’ve helped cook, and this is another opportunity for them to show you how “grown up” and independent they are.

Dinah Castro is a family wellness educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension in Suffolk. She can be reached at 631-727-7850 x. 351 or at

The Powerful Green Drink

By Kim Manfried, RD CDN

The smoothie revolution continues to flood supermarkets and home chefs’ kitchens alike. Many green drinks can contain added sugars, artificial sweeteners, and portions that add hundreds of calories to an otherwise healthy option.

Whether you add spinach or kale, most green drinks contain a very well-known green vegetable….celery. Celery is a common add-in, but this well-known green veggie is a powerhouse all on its own. Celery contains many nutritional benefits that most people may not realize, thinking it is only filled with water and contains little to no nutrition. Think again.

Celery contains many healthy and necessary nutrients our bodies need such as magnesium, potassium, vitamin K, fiber, calcium, and iron. It contains sodium, not table salt, but rather a natural and essential salt. Celery salt you can buy in the spice aisle is different from the naturally occurring salt found in celery, and it usually contains additives and chemicals such as nitrates.

When added to a healthy diet, celery can help reduce and maintain healthy blood pressure. It acts as a detox for the body, helping to balance the gut bacteria which reduces bloating, gas, and cravings. Celery also has anti-inflammatory properties that can help with pain from arthritis or acne.

The above nutritional benefits are based on juicing and consuming celery juice alone as a green drink with no added fruits or veggies and only a small amount of added water to help with the blending. The properties in celery that can help with gut bacteria and inflammation are better obtained when celery is juiced alone and not mixed with any other foods, not even the celery pulp. If you like celery, it can be eaten raw or cooked, used in recipes, or juiced with other fruits and veggies if you do not want to juice it alone. You may not get the above stated benefits, but it is still a low calorie and nutrient dense food.

The properties of celery may not agree with everyone. Speak with a health care provider with any concerns you may have. Celery acts as a natural diuretic, so those individuals with any gastrointestinal issues may have to avoid consuming celery juice and or celery in general.

Remember, when juicing celery, consume only the celery juice. Always use organic celery as regular celery contains high amounts of pesticides. As with anything, moderation is key. Remember to eat a variety of veggies daily and not rely solely on celery. Aim for about 8-16oz per day of celery juice to start. Hopefully you will see some positive effects!

Kim Mendel is a Registered Dietitian and Diabetes Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program. She can be reached at

New Guidelines for Children’s Health

By Kerri Kreh Reda, M.P.H.

The World Health Organization recently published new guidelines for children under the age of five. These guidelines address factors impacting children’s physical and mental health. The recommendations seek to help parents balance the need for physical activity with sedentary behavior, including the use of screens.  Sleep recommendations are also part of the guidelines as many children are chronically sleep deprived.  The goal of these recommendations is to improve children’s development and lifelong health.

Below is a summary of the guidelines from a World Health Organization news release from April 24, 2019, entitled “To grow up healthy, children need to sit less and play more. New WHO guidelines on physical activity, sedentary behaviour, and sleep for children under 5 years of age.” A link to the full executive summary follows.

Recommendations at a glance:

Infants (less than 1 year) should:

  • Be physically active several times a day in a variety of ways, particularly through interactive floor-based play; more is better. For those not yet mobile, this includes at least 30 minutes in prone position (tummy time) spread throughout the day while awake.
  • Not be restrained for more than 1 hour at a time (e.g. prams/strollers, high chairs, or strapped on a caregiver’s back). Screen time is not recommended. When sedentary, engaging in reading and storytelling with a caregiver is encouraged.
  • Have 14–17 hours (0–3 months of age) or 12–16 hours (4–11 months of age) of good quality sleep, including naps.

Children 1-2 years of age should:

  • Spend at least 180 minutes in a variety of types of physical activities at any intensity, including moderate-to-vigorous-intensity physical activity, spread throughout the day; more is better.
  • Not be restrained for more than 1 hour at a time (e.g., prams/strollers, high chairs, or strapped on a caregiver’s back) or sit for extended periods of time. For 1-year-olds, sedentary screen time (such as watching TV or videos, playing computer games) is NOT recommended. For those aged 2 years, sedentary screen time should be no more than 1 hour; less is better. When sedentary, engaging in reading and storytelling with a caregiver is encouraged.
  • Have 11-14 hours of good quality sleep, including naps, with regular sleep and wake-up times.

Children 3-4 years of age should:

  • Spend at least 180 minutes in a variety of types of physical activities at any intensity, of which at least 60 minutes is moderate- to vigorous intensity physical activity, spread throughout the day; more is better.
  • Not be restrained for more than 1 hour at a time (e.g., prams/strollers) or sit for extended periods of time. Sedentary screen time should be no more than 1 hour; less is better. When sedentary, engaging in reading and storytelling with a caregiver is encouraged.
  • Have 10-13hours of good quality sleep, which may include a nap, with regular sleep and wake-up times.

WHO Executive Summary “Guidelines on Physical Activity, Sedentary Behaviour, and Sleep for Children Under 5 years of Age”

Kerri Kreh Reda, M.P.H., is a Human Development Specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program. She can be reached at 631-727-7850 ext. 330 or at

Encourage Your Child To Be a Good Friend

By Maxine Roeper Cohen, M.S.

Preschoolers want to make friends with other children and they should. There is a natural progression from solitary play during infancy to playing alongside others during the toddler years. Learning to make friends is an important task and part of your child’s growing social development and interest in the world.

Playing with other children, whether at home, in a daycare center, or nursery school provides preschoolers with the opportunity to expand their limited perspective and consider other points of view. Over time, preschoolers learn to manage their emotions and exhibit some self-control so that they can enjoy friendships with other children.  As they talk to each other and share toys, they learn to cooperate, solve conflicts, and have fun together, and parents can take a step back.

For a preschooler, a friend is someone who is both willing and able to play. Usually it is someone that lives nearby so it easier to get together.  The goal of friendship at this stage is enjoying activities together.

How Parents Can Promote These First Friendships

  • Encourage your child to be approachable. Teach your child to smile and make eye contact with other children.
  • Read stories and books to your child about friendship. The difficulties that the characters experience and how they ultimately resolve conflicts will help make your child aware of the social skills needed in being a friend.
  • Suggest that your child invite another child to your home for a playdate. Provide a safe environment and agree ahead of time which toys your child is willing to share. Put other toys away. Be sure to monitor the visit, provide a snack, and keep the playdate short enough to be fun and not tiresome.
  • Praise your child’s good social behavior such as sharing toys, taking turns, and compromising.
  • Stress and praise kindness towards others. Remember that your child watches and mimics your behavior, so be a positive role model.

Be realistic in your expectations for your child. Know that at this young age his ability to remember and practice all the “social graces” is affected by how he is feeling (Is he tired? Hungry? Coming down with a cold?) and by what else is going on around him. A child who has lots of experience playing in the secure, familiar environment of his own backyard with one friend may still be overwhelmed when faced with many children at a noisy and busy birthday party. Try to stay close by and offer coaching and support.

Making friends takes time. Encourage your child’s efforts and remember that this budding ability is crucial for social success as your child develops.

Maxine Roeper Cohen is a Parent Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program. She can be reached at

Getting kids to eat more fruits and vegetables

By Dinah Torres Castro

Parents often ask how they can get their kids to eat more fruits and vegetables. Here are some tips to get you started:

  • First of all, have fruits and vegetables available for “anytime” snacks. Make snacks an activity your child will enjoy, such as dipping. Children love to dip because it is fun! Let them dip apples in peanut butter (as long as there are no known nut allergies—if your child has a nut allergy, try using sunflower butter or butters made from other nut substitutes), carrots in low-fat ranch salad dressing, or peppers in hummus.
  • Some parents feel better sneaking pureed and grated fruit and vegetables into soups, stews, casseroles, and baked items. Carrots, zucchini, cauliflower, beets, and applesauce are all great options for sneaking extra nutrition into your child’s food. They add flavor and nutrients, and your kids will never know. If this gives you peace of mind and makes life less stressful, then go ahead and do it. Just remember that you are not teaching your child to eat and enjoy these foods, and you still have the task of exposing your child to the actual fruits and vegetables. Studies show that children may need more than fifteen exposures to a food before they start eating and perhaps enjoying that food. You just have to keep trying!
  • When shopping for food, select plenty of fruits and vegetables. Canned and frozen options are also nutritious and economical choices. Be sure to choose lower-sodium canned vegetables, and canned fruit packed only in 100 percent juice. You can also guarantee freshness by shopping at local markets, such as farmer’s markets, for seasonal fruits and vegetables.
  • Avoid buying high-calorie foods such as chips, cookies and candy. If your child doesn’t see these items in your home, she may not ask for these treats and will be more likely to eat fruits and vegetables.
  • Limit fruit juice and offer real fruit instead. If you do offer juice, make sure they drink 100 % juice and not “juice drinks”.
  • Be a role model by eating more fruits and vegetables yourself. Make sure your child sees you eating and enjoying fruits and vegetables.
  • Use creative recipes to get kids to eat vegetables. I remember planning a pizza night with my kids using a recipe with pizza toppings that included ground turkey, spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes, and peppers. Pizza night was always sacred in our house and they looked forward to it. When they saw the recipe, I was suddenly faced with a potential mutiny! My son led the charge, refusing to even help, and accusing me of ruining the recipe. I managed to rally the girls into helping me finish assembling the pizza. When it was baked, we sat down to eat and my son argued that he was only eating the cheese and the crust. After seeing the girls (his former crew-mates in the mutiny) taste and confirm that it was very good, he gave up and tasted the pizza. Hmm…I felt vindicated. Not only did he eat the pizza, he asked for seconds, and this recipe became a family favorite. Be creative and have your children get involved in making new dishes, planning meals, or even starting a garden. The more you involve them, the more opportunities they will have to be exposed to the fruits and vegetables you want them to eat.
  • Visit to find out how much of each food group your child needs.

For more information:

Dinah Castro is a Bilingual Family Well-Being Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program. She can be reached at 631-727-7850 ext. 351 or at

I ‘screen’, you ‘screen’, we all ‘screen’ for I-screens…and other devices!

By Kerri Kreh Reda, M.P.H.

America loves digital devices; it seems we can’t get enough time with our screens (television, smartphones, tablets, computers, etc.) According to a 2018 Nielsen report, adults 18 years of age and older spend more than 11 hours per day listening to, watching, reading, or interacting with media. Our teens aren’t doing much better; according to Commonsense Media, teens spend 9 hours per day using digital media. Young children, ages 8-12, are spending 6 hours per day, and even our youngest children (0-8 years) are on screens nearly 1 hour per day.

Screen-Free Week, previously known as “Turn off the TV Week”, is April 29-May 5, 2019. This week is an opportunity for individuals and families, young and old, to rediscover the joys of life beyond the virtual world we have been living in. By committing to unplugging from all digital entertainment, you will have more time to play, exercise, read, sleep, connect with friends, enjoy nature, and much more.

Here are five good reasons to participate in Screen-Free Week from “The Greater Good Magazine: Science-Based Insights for a Meaningful Life”, UC Berkeley:

  1. Present-moment awareness
  2. Better sleep
  3. Richer connections
  4. Productivity and learning
  5. Breaking the habit

For the full article, “Five Reasons to Take a Break from Screens”, visit:

For more information on Screen-Free Week, go to:

For the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendations for screen time, visit:

Check out “Device Free Dinner with Will Ferrell” on You Tube.

Kerri Kreh Reda, M.P.H., is a Human Development Specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program. She can be reached at 631-727-7850 ext. 330 or at

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